TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The voter ID talk continues today at 1 p.m. in a House committee after more than four hours of comments Tuesday about the topic -- but not an actual bill. (More on this below.) Other House committees will consider an immigration measure to restrict the use of Mexican consular documents and a bill to limit lottery advertising. The House convenes at 3 p.m. The Senate at 2 p.m. to take a final vote on the Charlotte aiport authority. A Senate committee will consider UNC Board of Governors nominations at a 4 p.m. meeting. Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events on his schedule.
McCRORY JOB RATING HOLDS STEADY: The Republican governor's approval rating stabalized in the latest Public Policy Polling survey after a month in which his negatives spiked. The March poll from the Democratic firm put McCrory's approval rating at 49 percent with 35 percent disapproving. Another 16 percent remain unsure. Pollster Tom Jensen previewed the numbers Tuesday on News14's Capital Tonight program with Tim Boynum. Check Dome for more when the full poll is released later Wednesday.
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THE POLITICAL BIG BAD WOLF: VOTER ID The politically volatile issue of whether North Carolina should require voters to have photo identification brought an overflow crowd and emotional testimony to the legislature Tuesday. At a public hearing conducted by the House Elections Committee, nearly 100 people argued over whether such a step would ensure election integrity or was an effort to disenfranchise voters.
The majority of speakers criticized the proposal, arguing there was little voter fraud in the state and that requiring photos would be an obstacle to voting for those without driver’s licenses. They also argued it would cost the state money. The public hearing, which stretched for four hours, packed a committee room and an overflow room.
Some form of voter ID is all but certain to become law. The Republican legislature passed a photo ID bill in 2011 only to have it vetoed by Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat. But Republican Gov. Pat McCrory campaigned in support of a voter ID bill last fall and has said he would sign such legislation. Opponents said even if the bill passes, they plan to fight it in the courts. “If we lose in the legislature, we will fight in the courts because they (the laws) are un-American and because they are unconstitutional,” said Katie O’Conner, staff attorney for the Advancement Project, a Washington-based civil rights group that has fought voter ID laws in such states as Ohio and Pennsylvania. Full story here.
VOTER ID PANEL TODAY: The voter ID discussion continues Wednesday with a panel discussion at 1 p.m. in the House Committee on Elections. Those scheduled to speak present an assortment of organizations, some more partisan than the others. Again, all this discussion without a bill -- in a situation where the details matter. The lineup: Francis X. Deluca, president of the John W. Pope Civitas Institute; Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice; Bob Hall, executive director at Democracy North Carolina; Allison Riggs, staff attorney for voting rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice; Hans A. von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the The Heritage Foundation.
NEW MASS. SENATOR TO HEADLINE BIG N.C. DEM FUNDRAISER:The newly minted U.S. senator from Massachusetts -- North Carolina native Maurice "Mo" Cowan -- will serve as keynote speaker for the state Democratic Party's big fundraiser next month. Cowan will headline the 2013 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on April 27. N.C. Democrats are charing $125 for a ticket and up to $10,000 for sponsorship. It's the first major fundraising event under new Chairman Randy Voller, a polarizing figure who takes the helm of a party that desperately needs to restock its campaign coffers after a draining and unsuccessful 2012 election cycle.
PERSONNEL FILE: Jonathan Kappler, prolific tweeter, data cruncher pro, campaign finance extraordinaire, is leaving the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation as research director after 3 1/2 years. Kappler is moving to the UNC system where he will work as director of state government relations.
HIRING: "In light of this news, the NC FreeEnterprise Foundation is seeking qualified candidates for the position of Research Director. ... Applicants may submit a resume by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to include "Research Director" in the subject line."
FINALLY, AN ANSWER (THAT WON'T SURPRISE YOU): Lt. Gov. Dan Forest's spokesman just responded to the question about his U.S. Senate prospects, now that a new PPP poll puts him at the top among potential Republican candidates. It's about the answer you expected. "Dan was just elected to the office of Lieutenant Governor and is focused exclusively on the job the people have elected him to carry out . He has no plans to run for the Senate at this time," Hal Weatherman, his chief of staff, replied by email Wednesday.
GOP TARGETS McINTYRE CAMPAIGN FINANCES: From the Wilmington Star-News -- The N.C. Republican Party says U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre violated campaign finance reporting laws by failing to file reports on time and not disclosing individual donor contributions, according to a complaint letter. In a letter sent Friday, the NCGOP said McIntyre did not itemize contributions to the "McIntyre 2012 Victory Fund," required under campaign finance laws. The fund was a partnership with the N.C. Democratic Party. The NCGOP says the victory fund can't list money from lump sums and didn't disclose individual donor contributions. ... The Mike McIntyre for Congress Campaign Committee said Monday the Federal Election Commission has not contacted them about issues with the committee's filings.
N.C. NEAR TOP IN TURNOUT, MONEY: A report from Nonprofit Vote ranksNorth Carolina's voter turnout in the 2012 election No. 11 in the nation, a 10-spot jump from 2008. It also put the state at No. 4 in ad spending, at roughly $97 million, citing a Washington Post study. Read the full report here. (H/T to Kappler for spotting it.)
ETHERIDGE SPEAKS OUT ON MEDICAID BILL: From a Fayetteville Observer opinion piece by former Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Bob Etheridge -- "A few days ago Republican legislators and Gov. Pat McCrory rejected federal funds that would have provided insurance coverage to more than 500,000 of our most vulnerable neighbors. Last week, in this newspaper, Rep. Renee Ellmers endorsed the move, saying that Medicaid coverage is harmful. This is false. Common sense should tell us that having access to medical care is better than going uninsured. ... Accepting federal funds to make insurance coverage more widely available is also good for our state.
5 COMPANIES BID FOR N.C. COASTAL WIND FARM: Five companies are interested in developing wind farms in the ocean off North Carolina, hoping to take advantage of what could be the East Coast’s most promising chance to create energy through giant turbines anchored to the sea floor. The idea is embraced by both Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the Sierra Club, who see North Carolina as the next potential center for renewable energy in America. But big obstacles remain before the whirling farms become a reality. Offshore wind is an expensive form of energy, and Congress is losing interest in federal subsidies to encourage it. There are no offshore wind farms in the United States, although they’re common in Europe. The federal government asked companies in December whether they’d be interested in North Carolina offshore wind development. Five responded positively in filings released Tuesday. One is Virginia Electric and Power Co., part of the Dominion utility that serves Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. Full story here.
PROGRESS ENERGY RATE HIKE REQUEST SPURS RALLY: Progress Energy customers who could end up paying more than $100 a year extra for electricity under a pending rate request will finally get their say on the matter Wednesday at the last of five statewide hearings for the public. Activists have bought newspaper ads and plan to stage a protest rally in front of the state government building in Raleigh where the N.C. Utilities Commission will hear from citizens, many of them organized by Greenpeace, AARP, N.C. Housing Coalition and other groups. Full story here.
MOTORCYCLIST HAIR FREEDOM ACT: Motorcyclists who love the wind in their hair are pushing again for the freedom to ride without safety helmets in North Carolina, and they found support Tuesday from members of a state House committee. North Carolina is one of 19 states where safety helmets are mandatory for all motorcyclists. Studies credit helmets with reducing deaths and serious brain injury in crashes, and a recent survey by the Governor’s Highway Safety Program found that 78 percent of motorcycle riders support the state law. But opponents have tried to weaken or repeal the helmet rule in nearly every legislative session since the mid-1990s. This year their cause is led by a motorcycle-riding Republican from Gaston County. Full story here.
GOODWIN BACKS CURRENT AUTO INSURANCE SYSTEM: The state’s one-of-a-kind system for regulating auto insurance rates has divided Republican legislators, insurance companies and insurance agents alike. But there’s no doubt which side is favored by the state’s chief regulator, Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin. He lambasted a bill to revamp the current approach as “a wide-ranging proposal to blow up the system” that would destroy the built-in protections that consumers currently enjoy and lead to higher rates. But he praises the competing legislation as a “targeted approach” that would preserve the existing system while introducing more flexibility for insurers to offer innovative products. It remains to be seen what impact the opinions of Goodwin, a Democrat, might have on a legislature where both houses are dominated by Republicans. Full story here.
GOP TARGETS ENERGY EFFICIENCY AS PART OF HOME INSPECTIONS BILL: The N.C. House approved a measure Tuesday to ease restrictions on homebuilders by limiting local inspections and delaying new construction rules. One particular target for the legislation was energy efficiency standards. “The building code is a way to build safe houses and structurally sound houses,” said state Rep. Mike Hager, a Republican. “It’s not a way to interject what I call social change ... on how we all feel about energy savings.” Full story here.
AIRPORT BILL CLEARED FOR TAKE OFF: Rejecting pleas to slow down what one lawmaker called the “seizure” of Charlotte’s airport, the N.C. Senate on Tuesday tentatively approved a bill that would transfer airport control from the city to an independent authority. Senators voted for the measure 33-16, largely along party lines. The Republican-backed bill is expected to win final approval Wednesday before moving to the House. Full story here.
ACLU FIGHTS PRAYER AT ROWAN COUNTY COMMISSION MEETINGS: Three Rowan County residents and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued the county for opening commission meetings with Christian prayers. The ACLU filed suit Tuesday in federal court on behalf of residents Nancy Lund, Liesa Montag-Siegel and Robert Voelker, who say the commissioners’ practice of praying before meetings violates their constitutional rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The suit alleges that 97 percent of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners meetings over the past five years have been opened with prayer. Full story here.
OBAMACARE LOOKING LESS LIKE TRAVELOCITY: Applying for benefits under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul could be as daunting as doing your taxes. The government's draft application runs 15 pages for a three-person family. An outline of the online version has 21 steps, some with additional questions. Seven months before the Oct. 1 start of enrollment season for millions of uninsured Americans, the idea that getting health insurance could be as easy as shopping online at Amazon or Travelocity is starting to look like wishful thinking. Full story from AP here.
BONUS LINK -- ESTRANGED WIFE OF GREENSBORO MAYOR WANTS HIM HELD IN CONTEMPT: From the News & Record: "Mayor Robbie Perkins’ estranged wife has asked a Guilford County judge to hold him in contempt of court for failing to pay post-separation and child support, according to court records. The couple are separated and in the midst of a divorce. Carole Perkins claims her husband has not paid a portion of about $13,000 a month he owes her, per a February court order."